Notes on Los Angeles
For Theo: Thank you for continuing to inspire me :)
My dear friends, I beg your grace. You will have to forgive me for over-promising the frequency with which I write here. Settling into Los Angeles has been nothing short of a flurry of overwhelming stimuli and fleeting emotions. Nonetheless, I believe I have handled it decently well. But not well enough to where I could remain true to my commitment to you, dear reader.
This is to say that I am making a revision to my commitment: I declare to write to you bi-weekly at a minimum. I need to. I need this for myself. My physical reality consists of variating stimuli and people that I find my attention being pulled to engage with. I cannot let the perimeters of my attention widen to the extent that my core self becomes any bit alien to me. I want to ensure that I am continuously at home with myself. Different contexts evoke different versions of you—and this one acts as my container for holding thoughts I would generate if I were sitting in a box by myself (anonymously without social influence). This is one of my personal homes.
After having lived in Los Angeles for two months, I have been reflecting on the type of relationship I’m interested in cultivating with my environment as it relates to evoking different realities in myself. I have been adjusting to create a good flow of things such that they position me correctly on the axis of the type of success I’m hoping to achieve. If it’s necessary for me to calibrate my position on the grid, I’d be glad to do that and adapt to the changed coordinates instead of going with the flow. It’s about editing the flow to work for you.
In the context of cultivating a generative relationship with my environment, I’ve noted the ways I’d like to increase the intensity of its influence and other ways I aim to lower the temperature.
The physical environment
Los Angeles does not veil its beauty.
The amazing part about Los Angeles is that it is consistently beautiful. Besides a couple of rainy days, we have hardly experienced it to be depressing. Good sunshine is a given. I’ve found this to be profoundly positive for my general mood and ability to keep a consistent workout routine. My goal is to slowly integrate my ideal health habits in a way that feels effortless and sustainable—having consistent weather helps with this. As many of my friends on here know, I average about 6 miles a day to walk and run across the beach boardwalk every morning or evening. I take this time as an opportunity to catch up with friends, solve a problem on my mind, or process things and slow down.
My home space is beautiful. It being spacious, earthy, comfortable, clean, and modern at the same time has undeniably contributed to my positive mood.
While nothing is perfect, I feel like I am living in a movie almost every day. I’m super fortunate to live in a space with so many comfy corners to offer. It has also been excellent for hosting friends. Whether they come over to co-work, step into the hot tub, work out, roast s’mores, watch a movie, or have a good conversation over dinner, I’ve been pleased that my home has a great capacity to bring joy to others 😊.
It exists everywhere, but the distributions vary. I’ve not found it too difficult to find friends with shared interests, as I spend most of my social hours with rationalists, EAs, and AI researchers. In Westwood, there is a beautiful house where my friends host dinners and paper readings. As I defer most of my in-person socialization for the weekend, during the weekdays, talking to people that inspire me during my daily walk ritual helps to satisfy my intellectual itches.
During my time at Berkeley this year and my time at Stanford last year, I met some of the most inspiring human beings. It deeply empowers me to hear how they are thinking through their lives, the questions they’re asking, and the challenges they face. I know many of my Atlas friends are reading this — so I am taking this opportunity to add that I am extremely grateful that we met, and I’m excited for all that is in store for our futures. Thank you for picking up my impromptu phone calls!
While I’ve decently self-selected, it’s been rare that I meet an individual outside of my EA and AI research communities that I find inspiring to a similar degree. An overwhelming number of people in Los Angeles come as “starving” actors and creative individuals looking to build themselves up to fame. This can include some startup founders, too. However, I haven’t found the zest I found in Bay Area startup founders to be comparable to the Los Angeles startup founders. It’s also possible that I haven’t met enough to make a conclusive assessment. Nevertheless, if you are surveying the average person of each group category, I would say that the tech community in the Bay Area trumps the tech community in Los Angeles (not that this serves as a surprise to almost anyone).
I’ve observed that many of the tech people I’ve met in Los Angeles have a different relationship with their work than people in the Bay do. Earlier this year, Joscha shared his addendum to a grid that originally compared being the best with being unique. I found the last column the most emotionally resonant.
Whether they were building startups or doing research, some of the most honorable people I know lead their lives in a way that represents the last column. It takes a certain degree of emotional maturity and self-awareness to not only know how to live a life in a way that exhibits INTEGRAL, but also *why* it matters. It may be too soon to tell in Los Angeles, but I’ve mostly found these types of people to be “Bay-brained” more than anything else.
All this is to say that I am at a stage in my life where prioritizing growth in all the necessary domains is pertinent. Creating boundaries in a comfortable environment to foster conditions for growth and inspiration can be difficult, but reminding myself that Future Me will be grateful for my present efforts is typically sufficient. I want to increase the intensity by which I’m influenced by the friends I’ve met in the Bay and lower the temperature around Los Angeles folks I have met (besides ones with whom I share interests).
Los Angeles is beautiful. I eat well. I live in a good home. I’m focused on my education and projects. I am fortunate. These things have helped me take care of myself in ways that’ll sustain outlier outcomes in the long run.
Otherwise, it has been the first time that I have been around people in my “happen-stance” who feel bonded to me because we see each other often. My relationships before Los Angeles have typically been such that I choose someone because I was drawn to their essence and vice versa. It is not usually because we happen to be in a similar physical circumstance. That type of bond feels surface-level, somewhat “manufactured,” and not one that hallmarks a slow growth of trust and emotional care over time.
But we shall see. Developing relationships with people whom I share interests with has been a good start. Being in LA has been interesting as it has introduced me to a lot of things that conflict with my preferences and thereby refined my preferences by revealing many things I do not want.
Every stage of life serves different meanings and lessons—and maybe mine is currently pointing me inwards to preserve important parts of my core self and expand my sense of agency over my environment :-)
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